Parallel Lives’: Two professors perform feminist play on campus

by Ashley GressStaff Writer

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Professor of Management Marilyn Mueller asked Susanne Gubanc, assistant professor of communication studies, and her friend Bethany Larson, assistant professor of theater at Buena Vista University, to perform the comedic play “Parallel Lives.” The play was performed in Lekberg Hall on March 19 at 7:00 p.m..

“As a colleague of Professor Gubanc’s, I thought it appropriate to showcase her talent and provide a forum for a provocative and interesting piece of creative work,” Mueller said. “The play is sure to entertain the audience and stimulate conversation on campus. I believe forum events can introduce faculty, students and the larger community to new thoughts and ideas. I saw parts of the play performed and thought the Simpson College community would benefit from and enjoy the production.”

“Parallel Lives” is an award-winning play written by Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney. Najimy is known for being the voice of Peggy Hill on “The King of the Hill” and as Sister Mary Patrick in “Sister Act” and “Sister Act II.” Mo Gaffney is known for playing Joanne Stupac on “That 70’s Show.”

“Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy wrote the show themselves because they couldn’t get work,” Gubanc said. “Hollywood considered them too fat and too tall, so they wrote the show themselves and it appeared on HBO.”

Larson said “Parallel Lives” is a montage of scenes that depict various women and men and their response to the circumstances of their lives. It is, in many ways, a celebration of the diversity of women’s perspectives, wisdom and experiences.

The opening scene starts off with two supreme beings planning the beginning of the world. The two actresses later play a man and woman together in a country-western bar, teenagers on a date and many more hilarious characters. The show is a playful post-feminist satire.

“I think Women’s History Month gives a context of reflection about women’s experience and contributions to our world that can be useful when approaching this particular play,” Larson said. “It is entertaining and thought-provoking at any time of year, but this month we are already thinking and talking about ideas that are circulating within this play, so the experience for the audience may be richer.”

Gubanc and Larson met while they were both teaching at Buena Vista University.

Gubanc and Larson have over fifty years of acting experience combined, and have been performing “Parallel Lives” for seven years at places such as UNI, Buena Vista and the WayUp Conference for Women in Iowa Higher Education. This was the first time they performed at Simpson.

Gubanc said that both Larson and herself went into academia to teach, but they both really enjoyed performing, and “Parallel Lives” gives them that opportunity.

“I like the play because it deals with important issues without preaching anything,” Larson said. “It is funny, and it is fun to watch. It prompts people to think about things from a new perspective, I think. And, it is really fun to play many characters – a real challenge for an actor.”